A Saudi lawyer who acted for a blogger undergoing a sentence of flogging on top of imprisonment has had his own 10-year prison sentence raised, news agencies have reported.
According to Reuters in Dubai, Walid Abu al-Khair, founder of watchdog group Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA) has been sentenced to an additional five years in prison after failing to show remorse or recognise the court that last year sentenced him to 10 years for sedition.
Last Friday, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi received the first 50 lashes of a penalty of 1,000 lashes imposed with a 10-year sentence for insulting Islam.
Abu al-Khair was convicted last year on charges including breaking his allegiance to King Abdullah, showing disrespect for the authorities and creating an unauthorised association. He was also fined and banned from leaving the kingdom for 15 years after his release.
Abu al-Khair's wife, rights activist Samar Badawai, said this week that the special criminal court in Riyadh had decided on Monday to increase his sentence after an appeal by the public prosecutor, who had argued that the lawyer had failed to retract his views or express remorse over them. The hearing was reportedly attended by US and EU diplomats.
'The judge accepted the request and increased the sentence to 15 years imprisonment,' Badawi told Reuters.
Badawi said her husband, 35, had long objected to the tribunal set up in 2008 to try terrorism suspects. It has since been used to send rights campaigners to prison.
'Walid sees this court as lacking basic international standards for any tribunal and had objected to trying even terrorists in it, let alone rights activists,' she said.
Saudi anti-terrorism law says terrorist crimes include any act that 'disturbs public order, shakes the security of society or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of the state'.
The Gulf Center for Human Rights called for the unconditional release of Abu al-Khair, saying his detention was 'solely a reaction to his peaceful and legitimate activities in defence of citizens’ rights in the kingdom'.
Badawi is due to receive the second instalment of his 1,000 lashes in Jeddah on Friday.